Authors: Sasha Martin
Tags: #Cooking, #Essays & Narratives, #Biography & Autobiography, #Personal Memoirs, #Regional & Ethnic, #General
Published by the National Geographic Society
1145 17th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
Copyright © 2015 Sasha Martin. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission from the publisher is prohibited.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Life from scratch : a memoir of food, family, and forgiveness / Sasha Martin.
ISBN 978-1-4262-1374-8 (hardback)
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4262-1375-5
1. Martin, Sasha. 2. Cooks–United States–Biography. 3. Cooks–United States–Family relationships. I. Title.
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Interior design: Melissa Farris
For my brother, that shooting star, still blazing in my heart
We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time
T. S. Eliot
EMORY IS AN IMPERFECT COMPANION AT BEST
, and so these pages portray the events of my life only as I remember them. Still, I’ve done my best to be objective. I’ve made sacrifices for narrative flow: Certain minor characters are composites, and the occasional scene has been reordered or collapsed. Names and certain identifying attributes of characters have been changed; the notable exceptions are my husband and daughter.
HIS IS NOT THE BOOK
MEANT TO WRITE
This was supposed to be a spirited book about the four years I spent cooking my way around the world from my tiny kitchen in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The pages were going to be filled with sweet stories about overcoming pickiness and teaching my husband and daughter to love the world cuisine I featured on my blog, Global Table Adventure. It was going to be an easy book to write—one that wouldn’t make me cry, or make my relatives so nervous that I’d be obliged to employ pseudonyms.
But try as I might, I couldn’t stay within the parameters of such a narrative; the easy truth is as much a lie as any. What drove me to obsessively cook a meal from each of the world’s 195 countries cannot be explained by a simple passion for cooking alone.
Most people who have had a rough background will admit there’s something unsettling about finding happiness after difficulty—that even after we unwrap this gift, we don’t know how to stop searching, rummaging, pilfering for something else. We walk haltingly through life, ready for the other shoe to drop. The question is not if, but when.
There is a hunger for peace so deeply rooted in me that I cannot trace the origins to any one moment in my life. So I had to start at the beginning, from the foods of my wayward childhood, to those that shored up my teenage years overseas, to those I discovered in my blog. Together, they helped me learn to love my world as I cooked my way around it.
Everything depends on the moment the spice hits a hot pan: whether it sizzles with a mouthwatering fragrance or turns to ash. Once, I thought happiness was the sizzle in the pan. But it’s not. Happiness is the spice—that fragile speck, beholden to the heat, always and forever tempered by our environment.
This is the story I share with you.
Conflict of Herit
“Good kitchens are not about size.”
Living Room Kit
AM MISSING TWO FINGERPRINTS
on my right hand. The neat spiral of lines on my ring and middle fingers suddenly flatten out, melted into circles that fan outward like the tail of a peacock. I first noticed the marks in fourth grade, when my school started filing fingerprints for the police. I wondered why mine looked so different from those of my classmates.
After school, I asked Mom about it. But she was driving. She couldn’t inspect my fingers. Decades later I found out the truth: At age one I’d toddled over to an open broiler while Mom was making hamburgers. Her back was turned for a second to grab a pot holder. When she came back from the hospital, where they treated my third-degree burns and blasted her for child abuse, she found the shrunken pucks of meat on the still open grate. Cold. Congealed.